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SEC Media Days 2019: Day Two Recap — Kirby Smart and Matt Luke

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Matt Luke: The week’s best speaker so far. This is not a drill.

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">Mississippi v Vanderbilt

Crooked County Commissioner, Matt Luke

Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Kirby Smart, Georgia

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">Allstate Sugar Bowl - Texas v Georgia

Kirby yellin’ at a black guy again, SMH

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Far from downplaying expectations, Kirby came out hot, taking aim at Alabama and Clemson without mentioning them. That’s fair; the way they’ve recruited, and the friendly schedule UGA has, Georgia should have those expectations too.

One of the themes our players have adopted this year has been to do more. It’s a great theme because it’s simple.

We like it because we understand how close we’ve been to taking the next step. And although 24 and 5 the last two seasons is good, it’s not good enough. It’s not where we expect to be at the University of Georgia.

Our mission is to bridge that gap, you know, by the actions we take, hence the word “do more,” those words require action...

Pressure is a reflection of ambition. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves day in and day out. The stress and pressure we feel emanates from our building, from our coaches, from our players putting it on each other, from our university. We apply it every day. We’re always looking for the aggregate of marginal gains

It’s like “The Process,” with waaaay too many words. But seriously, his statement about pressure is telling. Smart has taken some criticism for the way he has coached in crucial stretches of big games. If he’s creating a mental pressure cooker for himself, that would explain a lot of questionable decision-making.

On the loss of Mel Tucker:

So there won’t be a lot of change. It will be more about what our players can do than what our coaches do.

From a defensive standpoint, Dan Lanning and Glenn Schumann are very bright. Mel was a really good teacher to them... I’m still going to be involved defensively, makes me feel comfortable

Kirby nailed the pros and cons of the Transfer Portal too. Yes, it does facilitate contact between the players and prospective schools, but there simply aren’t enough spots for everyone in the portal.

And if the transfer portal has done one thing, it’s made it easier for players to understand what they have to do to be able to go look and see other places, but they also have to be careful about the grass being greener on the other side.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how many people in this room report how many guys are in the transfer portal with no home to go to when the season kicks off because I venture to say there’s going to be young men that have nowhere to go with lost scholarship opportunities that now don’t have a scholarship in other places. I think we’re learning as this goes about, and we’ll continue to learn and dot best thing we can to benefit our student-athletes.

The talking point from UGA coaches and players today was “we’re not going to talk about Alabama...”

Not to belabor the point, but you talk about taking that next step. Obviously that means going through Alabama in the SEC. What’s it going to take to kind of get past that and get over the hump? You’ve been the closest among really anybody in the SEC of doing that.

KIRBY SMART: Well, the next step for us, and I don’t mean this to be trite, but it’s Vanderbilt. You have to get to that point because we don’t have Alabama on our schedule. We know Alabama has been very powerful in this conference for a long time. We respect the job they do. I got a lot of respect for Coach Saban and his program. I probably wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him. I also understand we have a really good program too.

We have been able to recruit at a high level. I’m excited about this team coming back. The biggest thing is concerning ourselves with us and not concerning ourselves with somebody else.

Otherwise, it was a softball panel for Kirby without many hard questions. There was nothing about the transfer mess, the Florida tiff, how the Dawgs ended the season, holes on the team, etc.

And that was a shame; there was a lot that he could have been peppered with.

Matt Luke, Ole Miss

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">Alabama v Mississippi

Been that kinda’ year in Oxford.

Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Matt Luke had a lot to beam about this year. For the first time since 2014, Ole Miss was able to get to 85 scholarship players, and signed a class of 31. For the first time in two seasons, the Rebels can compete for post-season play. And perhaps more importantly, the offseason staff shakeup left him in great shape. It is frankly an excellent duo — he has to be intimidated looking at his coordinators.

I really liked what we did with our coaching staff in the offseason. We made changes on both sides of the ball, hiring Rich Rodriquez on offense and Mike MacIntyre on defense. I think when you hire two former National Coaches of the Year, I think that obviously brings a wealth of knowledge to your staff, but I think it also makes a statement.

Rich Rod’s ball control spread requires no introduction, but the scheme installed by McIntyre is a complete revamp of Ole Miss’ long-standing four-down fronts:

Defensively, you’re going to see a huge change. We’re going from four down to Mike MacIntyre’s 3-4 system. Mike and I worked together for several years and knew he was a great teacher, but really enjoyed seeing the way this defense bought in to this system. We got a bunch of guys on that side of the ball that have played a lot. And quite frankly, they are tired of hearing about how bad they are.

So you really saw them playing with a chip on their shoulder this spring, and I think we take the field against Memphis. I think you’re going to see a much-improved defense.

On Rich Rod:

To get a little bit more Xs and Os and scheme-wise, you have to be able to defend all 11 players. You have to be able to account for the quarterback, whether it’s in a designed run or a zone read. So I think they would have to defend the whole field and defend all of the 11 players is something that comes to mind immediately.

On Alabama...

My focus right now is on Memphis. I think that will be a good litmus test for this football team.

I have to admit, in terms of substance and Xs and Os, Matt Luke was by far the most engaging speaker of the past two days. The team is going to be very, very young: four freshman QBs and an entirely new crop of wideouts. And, though this year’s goal his is to get back to the postseason, that may be a bit out of reach. But, I do think Luke’s right: you will see a more physical Ole Miss team, even if they’re not necessarily better at the end of the season, with all the scheme and personnel changes. And frankly you can’t help but see that, given the inside trap scheme RRod adores and an aggressive, attacking 3-4 defense; both of which are huge upgrades over the slop Ole Miss has fielded the past two seasons.